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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 9 - Chapter 3
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What Will He Do With It - Book 9 - Chapter 3 Post by :dant245 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1689

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What Will He Do With It - Book 9 - Chapter 3

BOOK IX CHAPTER III

WHATEVER THE NUMBER OF A MAN'S FRIENDS, THERE WILL BE TIMES IN HIS LIFE WHEN HE HAS ONE TOO FEW; BUT IF HE HAS ONLY ONE ENEMY, HE IS LUCKY INDEED IF HE HAS NOT ONE TOO MANY.

A cold night; sharp frost; winter set in. The shutters are closed, the curtains drawn, the fire burns clear, and the lights are softly shaded in Alban Morley's drawing-room.

The old bachelor is at home again. He had returned that day; sent to Lionel to come to him; and Lionel had already told him what had transpired in his absence--from the identification of Waife with William Losely, to Lady Montfort's visit to Fawley, which had taken place two days before, and of which she had informed Lionel by a few hasty lines, stating her inability to soften Mr. Darrell's objections to the alliance between Lionel and Sophy; severely blaming herself that those objections had not more forcibly presented themselves to her own mind, and concluding with expressions of sympathy, and appeals to fortitude, in which, however brief, the exquisite kindness of her nature so diffused its charm, that the soft words soothed insensibly, like those sounds which in Nature itself do soothe us we know not why.

The poor Colonel found himself in the midst of painful subjects. Though he had no very keen sympathy for the sorrows of lovers, and no credulous faith in everlasting attachments, Lionel's portraiture of the young girl, who formed so mysterious a link between the two men who, in varying ways, had touched the finest springs in his own heart, compelled a compassionate and chivalrous interest, and he was deeply impressed by the quiet of Lionel's dejection. The young man uttered no complaints of the inflexibility with which Darrell had destroyed his elysium. He bowed to the will with which it was in vain to argue, and which it would have been a criminal ingratitude to defy. But his youth seemed withered up; down-eyed and listless, he sank into that stupor of despondency which so drearily simulates the calm of resignation.

"I have but one wish now," said he, "and that is to change at once into some regiment on active service. I do not talk of courting danger and seeking death. That would be either a senseless commonplace, or a threat, as it were, to Heaven! But I need some vehemence of action--some positive and irresistible call upon honour or duty that may force me to contend against this strange heaviness that settles down on my whole life. Therefore, I entreat you so to arrange for me, and break it to Mr. Darrell in such terms as may not needlessly pain him by the obtrusion of my sufferings. For, while I know him well enough to be convinced that nothing could move him from resolves in which he had entrenched, as in a citadel, his pride or his creed of honour, I am sure that he would take into his own heart all the grief which those resolves occasioned to another's."

"You do him justice there," cried Alban; "you are a noble fellow to understand him so well! Sir, you have in you the stuff that makes English gentlemen such generous soldiers."

"Action, action, action," exclaimed Lionel. "Strife, strife! No other chance of cure. Rest is so crushing, solitude so dismal."

Lo! how contrasted the effect of a similar cause of grief at different stages of life! Chase the first day-dreams of our youth, and we cry, "Action--Strife!" In that cry, unconsciously to ourselves, HOPE speaks and proffers worlds of emotion not yet exhausted. Disperse the last golden illusion in which the image of happiness cheats our experienced manhood, and HOPE is silent; she has no more worlds to offer--unless, indeed, she drop her earthly attributes, change her less solemn name, and float far out of sight as "FAITH!"

Alban made no immediate reply to Lionel; but, seating himself more comfortably in his chair--planting his feet still more at ease upon his fender--the kindly Man of the World silently revolved all the possible means by which Darrell might yet be softened and Lionel rendered happy. His reflections dismayed him. "Was there ever such untoward luck," he said at last, and peevishly, "that out of the whole world you should fall in love with the very girl against whom Darrell's feelings (prejudices if you please) must be mailed in adamant! Convinced, and apparently with every reason, that she is not his daughter's child, but, however innocently, an impostor, how can he receive her as his young kinsman's bride? How can we expect it?"

"But," said Lionel, "if, on farther investigation, she prove to be his daughter's child--the sole surviving representative of his line and name?"

"His name! No! Of the name of Losely--the name of that turbulent sharper, who may yet die on the gibbet--of that poor, dear, lovable rascal Willy, who was goose enough to get himself transported for robbery!--a felon's grandchild the representative of Darrell's line! But how on earth came Lady Montfort to favour so wild a project, and encourage you to share in it?--she who ought to have known Darrell better?"

"Alas! she saw but Sophy's exquisite, simple virtues, and inborn grace; and, believing her claim to Darrell's lineage, Lady Montfort thought but of the joy and blessing one so good and so loving might bring to his joyless hearth. She was not thinking of morbid pride and mouldering ancestors, but of soothing charities and loving ties. And Lady Montfort, I now suspect, in her scheme for our happiness--for Darrell's--had an interest which involved her own!"

"Her own!"

"Yes; I see it all now."

"See what? you puzzle me."

"I told you that Darrell, in his letter to me, wrote with great bitterness of Lady Montfort."

"Very natural that he should. Who would not resent such interference?"

"Listen. I told you that, at his own command, I sent to her that letter; that she, on receiving it, went herself to Fawley, to plead our cause. I was sanguine of the result."

"Why?"

"Because he who is in love has a wondrous intuition into all the mysteries of love in others; and when I read Darrell's letter I felt sure that he had once loved--loved still, perhaps--the woman he so vehemently reproached."

"Ha!" said the Man of the World, intimate with Guy Darrell from his school-days--"Ha! is it possible! And they say that I know everything! You were sanguine,--I understand. Yes, if your belief were true--if there were some old attachment that could be revived--some old misunderstanding explained away--stop; let me think. True, true--it was just after her marriage that he fled from the world. Ah, my dear Lionel; light, light! light dawns on me! Not without reason were you sanguine. Your hand, my dear boy; I see hope for you at last. For if the sole reason that prevented Darrell contracting a second marriage was the unconquered memory of a woman like Lady Montfort (where, indeed, her equal in beauty, in disposition so akin to his own ideal of womanly excellence?)--and if she too has some correspondent sentiment for him, why then, indeed, you might lose all chance of being Darrell's sole heir; your Sophy might forfeit the hateful claim to be the sole scion on his ancient tree; but it is precisely by those losses that Lionel Haughton might gain the bride he covets; and if this girl prove to be what these Loselys affirm, that very marriage, which is now so repugnant to Darrell, ought to insure his blessing. Were he himself to marry again--had he rightful representatives and heirs in his own sons--he should rejoice in the nuptials that secured to his daughter's child so honourable a name and so tender a protector. And as for inheritance, you have not been reared to expect it; you have never counted on it. You would receive a fortune sufficiently ample to restore your ancestral station; your career will add honours to fortune. Yes, yes; that is the sole way out of all these difficulties. Darrell must marry again; Lady Montfort must be his wife. Lionel shall be free to choose her whom Lady Montfort approves--be friends--no matter what her birth; and I--I--Alban Morley-shall have an arm-chair by two smiling hearths."

At this moment there was heard a violent ring at the bell, a loud knock at the street door; and presently, following close on the servant, and pushing him aside as he asked what name to announce, a woman, severely dressed in irongrey, with a strongly-marked and haggard countenance, hurried into the room, and, striding right up to Alban Morley, as he rose from his seat, grasped his arm, and whispered into his ear, "Lose not a minute--come with me instantly--as you value the safety, perhaps the life of Guy Darrell!"

"Guy Darrell!" exclaimed Lionel, overhearing her, despite the undertones of her voice.

"Who are you?" she said, turning fiercely; "are you one of his family?"

"His kinsman--almost his adopted son--Mr. Lionel Haughton," said the Colonel. "But pardon me, madam--who are you?"

"Do you not remember me? Yet you were so often in Darrell's house that you must have seen my face, as you have learned from your friend how little cause I have to care for him or his. Look again; I am that Arabella Fossett who--"

"Ah, I remember now; but--"

"But I tell you that Darrell is in danger, and this night. Take money; to be in time you must hire a special train. Take arms, though to be used only in self-defence. Take your servant if he is brave. This young kinsman--let him come too. There is only one man to resist; but that man," she said, with a wild kind of pride, "would have the strength and courage of ten were his cause not that which may make the strong man weak, and the bold man craven. It is not a matter for the officers of justice, for law, for scandal; the service is to be done in secret, by friends, by kinsmen; for the danger that threatens Darrell--stoop--stoop, Colonel Morley--close in your ear"; and into his ear she hissed, "for the danger that threatens Darrell in his house this night is from the man whose name his daughter bore. That is why I come to you. To you I need not say, 'Spare his life--Jasper Losely's life.' Jasper Losely's death as a midnight robber would be Darrell's intolerable shame. Quick, quick, quick!--come, come!"

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BOOK X CHAPTER IBRUTE-FORCE. We left Jasper Losely resting for the night at the small town near Fawley. The next morning he walked on to the old Manor-house. It was the same morning in which Lady Montfort had held her painful interview with Darrell; and just when Losely neared the gate that led into the small park, he saw her re-enter the hired vehicle in waiting for her. As the carriage rapidly drove past the miscreant, Lady Montfort looked forth from the window to snatch a last look at the scenes still so clear to her, through eyes blinded by despairing
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